Base Bawlers

"The American National Game of Base Ball." Currier & Ives lithograph (1866).

“The American National Game of Base Ball.” Currier & Ives lithograph (1866).

Base Ball. Several match games have been played lately by the ‘Base Bawlers’ and we understand the result has favored the Wellington boys each time” (Lorain County News, 9-2-1868, pg. 3).

Two of the most evocative words in the American lexicon are surely, “Play ball!” I am a baseball fan myself, devoted since childhood to the Boston Red Sox. It may be snowing like mad tonight, but Monday is Opening Day. Here in Cleveland, the home opener will occur Friday–presuming it stops snowing. A huge banner hanging on the stadium has been counting us down through the last days of winter. In honor of spring and a new season, I offer this post about some of Wellington’s early triumphs on the baseball diamond.

The very first issue of The Wellington Enterprise ever printed devoted column space on its front page to recounting the results of a baseball game. Two Wellington teams–the Lorain Base Ball Club and the Buckeye Club–played a sort of exhibition match at the fairgrounds. Baseball was played rather differently in the mid-nineteenth century, as the final score demonstrates: Lorain beat the Buckeyes, 76 to 45. “The defeated Club need not be intimidated by its first losses as none expect to see a new Club, and especially one formed from new material, defeat an old organization. A little practice will make the ‘Buckeyes’ expert as their rivals, and then look out for fun!”

The second-ever issue of the newspaper again devoted an entire column on its front page to describing two baseball games. The victorious Lorain Club of Wellington took on a team from Medina on September 19, 1867 and then the Sullivan Star Club four days later. These sporting battles were also fought at the fairgrounds.

Wellington beat Medina in the first contest, 101 to 74. The game lasted four hours, as did the subsequent bout against Sullivan, though the former had eight innings and the latter nine. The Enterprise was stinging in its commentary: “On Monday the 23d, the Sullivan ‘Star Club’ came here with strong confidence in their ability to bear the conqueror’s palm with them to Sullivan; but it was evident before the game was half over that they had come on a bootless errand (which was literally true, as they were all barefooted) and the result was, their demonstrations also were reserved for another time” (9-26-1867, pg. 1). Final score of that game was 88 to 51.

Early box score. "The Wellington Enterprise," 9-26-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

Early box score. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 9-26-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

“We noticed among the players a fair representation of business men who had thrown aside for a time the perplexing cares of the office to participate in the health imparting game,” the Enterprise noted approvingly. Indeed, players on the Lorain Club included furniture maker and future mayor George Couch, and a young Charlie Horr playing third base and scoring nearly twenty runs in the two competitions against out-of-towners.

“Not only does the game strengthen the muscles but its conviviality creates a more cheerful disposition–two things most conducive to longevity,” the newspaper proclaimed. For players and observers, I think.

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